How do I give money to a friend who is too proud to accept it?
October 31, 2008 6:55 AM   Subscribe

A friend of mine is coming in from a couple hours away (each way) for the night (halloween party), and money is tight on her end. I would go pick her up myself, but have to work late into the afternoon and wouldn't have time to drive up and back twice between today and tomorrow. I want to give her the money for gas (I am in a much better position financially), since I know this is a big expense for her and she is saving me the trip, but she is very independent and does not want me reimbursing her. How can I get her to accept it without making damaging her ego or seeming like this is out of pity?
posted by pennstatephil to Human Relations (20 answers total)
Best answer: Get her to park behind you in the driveway. Borrow her car to run to the store during the busy party prep. Fill it with gas while you are out.
posted by toastedbeagle at 7:06 AM on October 31, 2008

...she is very independent and does not want me reimbursing her...

You might just have to accept that, if it's important enough to her.

Consider finding a way to offset the expense by giving her something or doing something for her (if not today/tomorrow then sometime over the next couple weeks) that will save her an equivalent amount of money, instead.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:17 AM on October 31, 2008

"Oh look, they gave me this gas card at work and I've just filled up!"
posted by kindall at 7:44 AM on October 31, 2008

If she drinks wine, you can send her home with unopened bottles from the party as a way to get $30 back to her in a roundabout way.
posted by xo at 7:46 AM on October 31, 2008

Buy a gas card and secretly stick it in her purse. Once she has returned home, call her and tell her that you felt bad about not being able to pick her up, so you felt the least you could do was repay her for the gas she used. That way, you make it inconvenient but not impossible for her to reject the gift.
posted by Nahum Tate at 8:03 AM on October 31, 2008

or, if you're going out to a club/restaurant, just pay her cover and pick up the tab. "i feel bad about not being able to pick you up, so let me get this."
posted by misanthropicsarah at 8:18 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

Short answer you can't. You are doing it out of pity, unless you're covering everyone's expenses for coming to the party. You're not doing it for the people who can afford it. You're only wanting to do it for her. And it will damage her ego. She's made the choice that she can afford to come see you. If she really couldn't, then she would probably make an excuse as to why she couldn't come.

Let her be an adult and make her own choices. If she didn't want to come see you, or couldn't afford it, she wouldn't. You're looking at $9 in gas expenses. If she's so bad off that she can't afford the $9 to go see a friend she has bigger problems.

I'd be insulted by any option that took away my ability to determine myself what the best choice for myself was.

Sneaking behind my back to fill up my car or placing items on my person without my knowledge wouldn't earn my friendship. Making it inconvenient for me to refuse or return an item makes you a friend I'm probably not going to want to keep around. I've removed these types of friends from my life. You offered, she refused. Forcing it on her or taking away her right to refuse only rubs her nose in the fact that she's not as financially well off as you.

Also, it would change the friendship dynamic, and probably not for the better, if every time she comes see you she's cut a check at the end of the visit.

Just my opinion.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:27 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You're looking at $9 in gas expenses

I don't know where the $9 figure is from. "A couple hours each way" probably means about 240 miles round trip (at highway speed). At 20 miles to the gallon, $3.50 a gallon, that's $42.

Sure, even that amount doesn't seem like a lot to many people. But sometimes it IS a lot.

I think it's very generous of you to want to cover the gas, but you may not be able to. I've been on both sides of similar situations. I like the gas card idea, and if you are good friends, it shouldn't come across as insulting. I've had friends "insist" helping me at times, and it has never damaged the friendship. I think if you mail it with a note that you appreciated her coming, that it added a lot to the gathering, and that the card is just a token of your appreciation. But only you know the dynamic of the friendship and what it can bear.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 8:41 AM on October 31, 2008

Instead of trying to do it sneakily, just offer to buy her a drink if you go out, or to get her some breakfast or something. If she refuses, at least you tried, and you should feel no guilt.
posted by fructose at 8:42 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

you could just take her aside, maybe before she leaves - tell her how happy you are that she could come. tell her that you understand she's very independent, but also tell her you'd like to help. frame it in the "i would have picked you up if i could have..."

i like the dropping a gas card in her purse or car, but i can see cjorgensen's point as well. if you're concerned about that, all you can do is talk to her.
posted by nadawi at 8:45 AM on October 31, 2008

Cjorgensen's right about sticking things in her purse. The aim here is to get her some badly needed cash, not to make a big production about how generous you are. The more effort it looks like you've gone to in order to reimburse her, the worse she's going to feel.

Asking if she'd take the unwanted wine off your hands is okay, especially if you're making the same offer to a couple of other people. Borrowing her car and then sticking some gas in it while you're out is borderline. If it's the sort of thing you would do generally out of politeness, fine. If it's going to look like you were just looking for an excuse to force gas on her, don't do it. Same with the meal, if you often pay for each other's meals and your wallet's out first, fine. Making a big deal out of offering to pay is not cool.

With normal gifts, it's the thought that counts. With charity you need to look like you've put no thought into it whatsoever.
posted by the latin mouse at 8:52 AM on October 31, 2008

Best answer: If you politely offer and she politely refuses, there's not much you can do. If she won't accept reimbursement for the gas, offer to take her out on another occasion - your treat.

If she refuses that as well, or insists on paying her own way, the best thing you can do is keep in mind your wish to help her out - and someday she will need help; we all do. Maybe not with money; maybe something unexpected happens and she'll need a shoulder to cry on, or could use help with errands or chores. Being the person who willingly jumps in to help when she does need and want it will mean so much more than a check for $40 now. (Of course, you may already be this person, which is wonderful and which is probably exactly why she's happy to drive several hours and spend a good bit of gas money to hang out with you.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:03 AM on October 31, 2008

Best answer: Back in the day, I had a relationship like you describe. My friend, John was wealthy and I was always scrambling. And I was not interested in anything that smelled like a 'kept woman'.

He had the most graceful solution. Friendly wagers. He'd bet me dinner that he'd get the final Jeopardy answer right. He'd bet me a fancy brunch if my guess/view/opinion that was opposite his, turned out to be correct. I usually didn't even catch on until much later. And, by the time I did, it felt not 'kept' at all, but 'cared for'.

Bet her a tank of gas that ... look for it, it will come.

My parents even did the wager thing. My father had a fancy fancy sweater for years that they called the Piggly Wiggly sweater. On a trip back to a favorite vacation spot he called the grocery store a Piggly Wiggly. My Mom said it was a Kroger. They had just seen the sweater in a store and both liked it but it was just a little to extravagant. Yep, Mom said... "ok, Mr. Smarty, if that Kroger turns out to be a Piggly Wiggly, I'll buy you that sweater!"
posted by susandennis at 9:17 AM on October 31, 2008 [9 favorites]

Best answer: My gas calculations were off. Math it not my strong point. Point still stands.

Gas here is finally back down around $2 a gallon.

Minneapolis is 4 hours away from me. So pretty much the same distance as a couple hours each way. I can get there on a tank of gas. So $24?

Yeah, a bit more than $9, but the point is the same. If she's in a world where this kind of money means the difference between eating or not, or paying the rent or not, she's probably going to just make an excuse as to why she can't go to the party. She didn't. She decided she can afford it.

You could always wait until her birthday or Christmas or whatever and give her a stocking stuffer with a gas card "For next time when you want to come see me," but I really wouldn't try anything this time around since she's already indicated she doesn't want it.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:21 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

Barry Graham writes,

"There is no one more obnoxious than a person who says, "I want to help people."

Such a statement is motivated by arrogance, by ego, not by compassion. It shows a dualistic and hierarchical attitude. When you say, "I want to help people," you are not only setting yourself apart from other people - in your mind, you are making other people less than you. In this view, there are victims, people who need to be helped, and there is you, their superior, who is going to help them."
posted by ellF at 10:20 AM on October 31, 2008

Response by poster: @EllF:
There is a difference between helping "people" and helping friends. I know this person, they are my friend, and I return kindness for kindness. This isn't about victimization or superiority, this is about being a good friend.
And for the record, there is nothing wrong with helping "people" who need it, either. It's called being a good human being, and if we all helped one another, we'd live in a much better world.
posted by pennstatephil at 10:29 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

I agree with the folks who say don't be sneaky. I think asking her to take some of the party leftovers home with her is the best way to give her something. I suggest that right before she leaves, you pack a 'goody bag' for her with leftover wine and the extra unopened snacks, then tell her that you have too much food leftover, and will she please take this goody bag as a party favor. Or something like that.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 10:39 AM on October 31, 2008

ellF: that's a pretty fucking terrible way to go through life, and it doesn't answer the question either. get bent.

How can I get her to accept it without making damaging her ego or seeming like this is out of pity?

cjorgensen has the best answer. but: if you really want to help now and not be obvious, and if you're throwing the party or are tight with the people who are, see if you can have a raffle for some prizes and throw it so that her name gets drawn for a gift card. it doesn't have to be a gas card specifically, a grocery one will do to help with her expenses.
posted by lia at 10:43 AM on October 31, 2008

Response by poster: Thank you to all who provided such helpful advice.
posted by pennstatephil at 1:51 PM on October 31, 2008

I know the moment has passed, but for the future - I am probably in a similar position to your friend. I have people in my life who want to help me even when I say 'no', and I've got to tell you, it feels really bad when people give me something after I say "no". Personally, I'd rather someone gave me a gas card as a gift that wasn't specifically linked with one particular trip than that they tried to reimburse me for visiting them. I would maintain my sense of autonomy that way. So I guess I'd say next time you see her, or just on some other occasion, give her a gas card (or something else she needs) as a present. Just say, "I was thinking of you and got you this." or whatever instead of trying to reimburse her.
posted by serazin at 8:47 PM on November 1, 2008

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